Iván Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Beethoven 8 and 9



Beethoven is my classical music soul mate — so I can never hear enough of his music. It was especially interesting hearing a more traditional performance of the Eighth, since I also attended the Iván Fischer concert of the Eighth and Ninth that was so expertly reviewed in the VDP by Phil Neches.

This was the most exciting concert I have attended in years. I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of Iván Fischer or the Budapest Festival Orchestra before, so I read up on them first and knew the concert would be novel. The first thing I noticed was that the “timps” were up front for the Eighth. The orchestra all walked on stage together and Iván Fischer was the most charismatic conductor I have ever seen. The program notes referred to the humor in the Eighth — a characteristic I had not previously associated with Beethoven, but you heard it in Fischer’s interpretation. My piano teacher said she felt like she was sitting in the middle of Beethoven’s counterpoint.

The Ninth was beyond compare. When the orchestra took its place, we noticed there was no place for the chorus and we immediately started looking around the hall to see where they might be to no avail. When the “Ode to Joy” began, they stood scattered amongst the audience and filled the entire hall with the uplifting sound so desperately needed by all.Ivan-Fischer-and-Budapest-Festival-Orchestra

One more very unusual touch. When the last note sounded, no one left the hall. The audience was all standing, clapping and stamping their feet for at least five and possibly seven “curtainless” calls and the orchestra joined them in a display of admiration and affection for Iván.

If Fischer and the Budapest return, I urge you to get tickets. You will experience the concert of a lifetime.

For more, please read Alex Ross’ review in the New Yorker from July, 2014. Fischer’s concerts attract throngs of young and old alike and you’ll see why.

Susan Rubinstein


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Posted: 02/10/17 by Phil Neches

Ellen and I attended an amazing concert last night (February 6) at David Geffen Hall.

Beethoven’s 8th Symphony is my personal favorite. I grew up listening to Bruno Walter’s recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker on a 10-inch vinyl LP on my Dad’s hi-fi, complete with a 15″ JBL woofer and stadium-size horn tweeter. Beethoven made an impression on 5-year-old me. And not just because of Dad’s rig.

The 8th is a small wonder between the huge 7th and the glorious 9th. It’s mature Beethoven in full expression of all of his powers, but in a compact, energetic and buoyant mode. I’ve heard this piece so often that I know almost every phrase — but not as well as Fischer! He seems to have thought through every note, every phrase, every nuance. Wow!

Then on to the 9th. Two movements went by. Where were the singers? The four soloists came out and sat discretely among the orchestra. On to the third movement. Where was the chorus? The third movement ended. The fourth movement started. Still no chorus. The bass and other soloists took their initial turns. Still no chorus.

Then to the amazement and delight of all, the chorus stood up. They were hiding in plain sight all throughout the hall dressed as ordinary concert goers. One was in the row just ahead of us. They were everywhere, including the balconies. And the sound was incredible.Fischer_4

Fischer even had an unusual seating chart for the orchestra. First violins stage left; second violins stage right. Cellos center left, violas center right. So far, not that unusual. But the tympanist sat in front, just behind the podium between the first violins and the cellos, with a truncated drum set (only two, and miniatures at that). The basses lined the back wall. Between the basses and the rest of the strings, Fisher had the horns stage left, winds center and remaining brass right. This arrangement gave the lower tones extra heft and balance, and the audience simply could not miss a beat with the tympani in plain view.

Too bad Beethoven couldn’t have heard the concert, including the seemingly endless ovations.


One Response to “Iván Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Beethoven 8 and 9”

  1. I neglected to say that the more traditional performance of Beethoven’s Eighth was by the NY Philharmonic with Herbert Blomstedt conducting on February 25th. Beethoven is always a treat for me, but Ivan Fischer is a hard act to follow.

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